LAX03LA133
LAX03LA133

On March 16, 2003, at 1420 Pacific standard time, a Schweizer SGS 1-34, N1169S, landed hard on a dirt strip at Torrey Pines Gliderport (CA84), San Diego, California. Associated Glider Clubs of Southern California, Ltd., operated the glider under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The commercial glider pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured; the glider sustained substantial damage. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed. The local area flight departed CA84 about 1330.

A routine aviation weather report (METAR) generated by an Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS) at Montgomery Field Airport, San Diego, California (located 7 nautical miles northwest of the accident site), indicated about 10 minutes prior to the accident winds were 230-degrees at 13 knots.

The Torrey Pines Gliderport is a publicly owned field. CA84 is situated on top of the Torrey Pines Mesa, along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. The 400-foot sandstone cliffs rise almost vertically from Black's Beach.

In a written statement, the pilot reported that he departed CA84 by winch launch, into favorable meteorological conditions. After 45 minutes of uneventful flight, he decided to land. On the first pass, he decided the area was too congested with paragliders and hang-gliders, to execute a safe landing pattern. He made a second pass along the cliff in an effort to allow the traffic to clear the area. The pilot stated that he began an approach in accordance with "standard Torrey Pines procedures, heading northbound… 600 [feet] msl, 300 [feet] agl."

As traffic had cleared the area, he turned west, towards the ocean, and entered the downwind. During the turn to the base leg, he noted that the glider appeared to be "slightly high for the approach." He deployed full spoilers. He noted that the full spoilers weren't providing a sufficient amount of sink to counter the lift produced by the cliff. He then applied a full slip using full right rudder and left aileron. He checked his airspeed, 48 knots; 2 knots below best glide speed. He continued to hold a full spoiler, full slip condition until he "felt" he was on the proper glide slope. The pilot then neutralized the flight controls, and retained the full spoiler input. The glider landed hard.

The pilot stated he thought that the combination of flying from a lift to a no lift condition, the high downwind ground speed, and rolling terrain in the area, contributed to his misjudging the sink rate created by the full spoiler, full slip approach, which resulted in a hard landing. The glider incurred damage to the fuselage, forward bulkhead, and stringers. The pilot did not report any pre-impact mechanical malfunctions or failures with the glider.

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